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Runs by the tons for Delhi, but is the Trophy safe?

The Nissar Trophy has never been won by a Pakistani side, but unless the weather gods or Delhi's bowlers perform a miracle, Virender Sehwag's side could be on their way to an unwanted first, reports Arjun Sen.

cricket Updated: Sep 18, 2008 00:24 IST
Arjun Sen

The scorecard doesn't always tell the full story, and if ever a match proved this, it is this one. The Nissar Trophy has never been won by a Pakistani side, but unless the weather gods or Delhi's bowlers perform a miracle, Virender Sehwag's side could be on their way to an unwanted first. And this on a day where Delhi dominated from start to finish.

Powered by mammoth centuries from Aakash Chopra (182) and Virat Kohli (197), Delhi ended a rain-truncated penultimate day of the match against Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Ltd (SNGPL) on an imposing 516/4, extending their their lead to 389. But the hosts' rather strange reluctance to declare, coupled with heavy evening showers left Sui in pole position to claim the Nissar Trophy on the basis of their 132-run first-innings lead.

Irrespective of how this match pans out, you can take nothing away from two superlative tons from two tremendously talented batsmen. Chopra and Kohli, resuming on 93 and 91 respectively, did not take long to hit three-figures. While Chopra took 166 balls to get there, Kohli needed 162. Neither batsman looked in discomfort, often rendering SNGPL skipper Mohammad Hafeez helpless, as he desperately sought a way to stop the run flow.

But nothing worked. The pacers found almost no assistance from a dead track. The lone specialist spinner, Imran Khalid, too did not look like picking a wicket. Countered by an attack that had suddenly disintegrated into a pedestrian one, Chopra and Kohli hardly needed to work hard for their runs. The duo put on 153 in the first session, with Chopra batting on 156 and his partner on 176.

The post-lunch session, however, proved different. The batsmen found it hard to find boundaries or singles. SNGPL's bowlers were at the batsmen, not giving the batsmen room to free their arms. Then, as is often the case, pressure resulted in a wicket. Kohli, who was stuck in the 190s for 24 balls, fell three short of a deserved double-century, his leg stump uprooted by an Asad Ali delivery that was on to him too quickly for the attempted on-drive. Kohli's 274-ball knock was studded with 29 hits to the fence, and one over it. Chopra (182, 315 balls, 21 fours) fell seven overs later.

The 385-run second-wicket stand helped stretch Delhi's lead to 323, and perhaps that is the score on which Sehwag should have declared. But he did not and when rain stopped play, Delhi's lead was 389.

With the heavens well and truly opening up in the evening to leave the ground looking like a pool, and a timely start unlikely on the final day, Delhi's unwillingness to declare might have poured water all over their chances of winning their first title of the season.